Usually, I’m the guy who takes things too seriously. No, it does not mean I crawl around on forums correcting inaccuracies across the land, or even that I’ll scream how unrealistic films/games are bad. It is more along the lines of you wouldn’t find me at Transformer films, showings of Japanese Power Rangers (yes, they exist in the UK) or even musicals. I simply usually have a miserable time at silly things.
Yet, Warhammer 40,000 and I have an unusual relationship. It is a land of chewing walls, having more ham & cheese than a sandwich factory and screaming “heresy” over and over like a deranged siren. That said, I love its grimdark nature. On the other hand, well, its approach to licensing has rendered the license a minefield (a title with a “3.5 out of 10” springs to mind).
Although that isn’t to say there aren’t potential gems creeping around the rough. One such gem I’ve been sneaking glances at every so often has been Neocore Games’s action-RPG interpretation of Warhammer 40k, in the form of Warhammer 40,000 Inquisitor – Martyr. After all, they have experience in wielding the action-RPG genre like a trusty camera to project upon a familiar setting through their The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing series. A series I do enjoy, even if I found the 3rd part as containing more faults than Mass Effect 3‘s original ending. I also looked upon the grim, bloody and gory landscape via development videos, and I had hopes it’d deliver the grimdark goofy atmosphere I love so much. Fortunately, I got my hands on a preview copy of its currently running alpha.
To get the ball rolling, I admit that I’m not sure if the same disconnect went through your mind as it did for me when Warhammer 40,000 Inquisitor – Martyr was announced as an isometric hack-n-slash action RPG.
While Warhammer 40,000 is a setting where firearm usage is common, isometric hack-n-slash games usually don’t get along with guns. Either guns are so weak as to favor those who can close the distance, or so potent as to favor the gunslinger over the knight. Even in the Warhammer 40,000 Inquisitor – Martyr preview, you can feel the balance being walked with caution, anxiety, and worry.
On one side, you have cover mechanics that feel like you SHOULD be using them to gun people down. On the other side, the overwhelming enemy types are melee based who’ll be chompin’ on your succulent lean meat unless you dart from cover. That said, there is somewhat often an ability to fire-while-retreating that can allow you to keep the ankle-crawlers at bay while purging the heresy with hot projectiles. However, guns will either have ammo capacities or heat-venting that, while I love the attention to detail, favors the unlimited endless swinging of the sword.
In addition, to add even greater confusion is suppression. Firearms, both by enemies and yourself, can induce suppression if enough fire is laid down. This can render your movement speed to a crawl (as well as, I think, hacking your DPS down). So you’re left with a choice: Do you melee up to have greater defenses (including possibly against suppression) via shields, however having to close the distance? Do you mow down the heretic from cover, leaving you potentially exposed and wrecked if melee comes to flank you? While I think you could theoretically induce a “suppressed” condition, I admit I’ve never managed it. Although considering most enemies require only a few bullets, it seems overkill and senseless to suppress them with the very bullets that kill them.
So there is a balance in how you take down the swarms that crowd around you like a cannibal hugging party or shoots at you from afar. Perhaps it is just particularly noticeable with the character archetype Crusader, the only one in the Warhammer 40,000 Inquisitor – Martyr alpha currently?
Although speaking of balance, it seems the randomly generated missions within the mission-select system may require some rejigging. As is, it is a chore to drag yourself through the endless corridors for an objective like eliminating all heretical life-forms. In one mission I took 25 minutes of just gunning swarms of enemies down only to finally hit 50% achieved. Although interestingly another mission involving taking out key targets was completed within 20 minutes so this time situation may be specific to the “eliminate all enemies” style missions and could be born entirely from the alpha state it is currently rolling in.
Although with that being said, the environments look fantastic for an alpha. Especially when splashed around with the gore the game offers to you by the bucket-load. It still feels just oh so satisfying to microwave someone’s head with a laser to a meaty “pop”. My only grumble is the environments are rather light with regards to other cosmetic debris (e.g. tables) before the killing begins, but I admit this is nit-picking compared to the grin-inducing.
Another area about this is environmental carnage. Pesky enemy hiding behind the wall? No problem! Gun it down until it is just rubble. End up missing with a gunshot? The wall will be marred with the shot you left. Both these environmental effects are really nice touches that don’t tend to appear in isometric action-RPGs.
Before we conclude, I really have to give credit for the pretty hefty variety of weapons on show here from flamers, over to heavy bolters, plasma cannons, shotguns, axes, hammers, shields, auto-pistols, and more. Each with their own skill sets that have their own characteristics. While they sadly never quite distinguish their styles enough to make you think about your build going into a mission (e.g. “should I take plasma to a mission favoring armor units?”), there is enough that you’re bound to find something that feels just oh so satisfying to use.
While it is relatively early doors in the Warhammer 40,000 Inquisitor – Martyr testing period, I admit I’m curious how this will pan out. Yes, it is possible that my concerns of tedious missions will persist and the awkward conflict between ranged vs melee (as it feels less like a choice of preference and more of a greasy wrestling match between two flawed approaches) will loom over the title like a fog cloud. However, some of the greatest strengths of Warhammer 40k has yet to be introduced: the diversity of heretics to obliterate (as only daemonic and chaos forces are afoot, although I guess that might be the point rather than having the option of also taking down Orks and Eldar), cheesy grimdark writing that is somehow lovingly simultaneously bleak and gleeful and a multitude of approaches to retake the planets for the emperor (as only Crusader is released out of the full range of warrior, rogue, and wizard, presented as Crusader, Assassin, and Psyker).
So I watch with cautious optimism. Will Neocore Games distil the Emperor’s will and might into a wonderfully crafted game, or will it be another brand of heresy? Either way, if you’d like to try Warhammer 40,000 Inquisitor: Martyr, then you can buy into The Founding from $40 (access to alpha, beta, polls and the full game, as well as your name in the credits) with various increasing tiers for those who crave additional knick-knacks. Just make sure it is warp-free before opening the lead-based package.
A Steam Key for Warhammer 40,000 Inquisitor: Martyr was provided by Neocore Games for the purpose of this Preview.